How Much and How Often Should You Water Your African Violets?
Are you unsure how much water your African violets need, and how often they should be watered? These beloved flowering houseplants have different watering needs compared to other houseplants, especially if you expect them to bloom. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen provides watering advice for your indoor African violets.
African Violets are easy-care houseplants. They have soft fuzzy leaves and richly-colored flowers in an array of cheerful colors. They grow and bloom readily in a bright window (but not direct sunlight) or under a grow light. They stay small and tidy and don’t require much fuss.
But when it comes to water, how demanding are these plants? Overwatering and underwatering are both common mistakes indoor gardeners make, so it’s important to make sure you get their watering frequency and regular amount correct.
So, just how much should you water your African Violets? And how often? Are there other things you need to know about their watering schedule? Despite their fussiness, as long as you understand their needs, you will be able to provide ideal care. Keep reading to learn more.
The Short Answer
You’ll want to water your African Violets enough to make sure the soil is moist, but not soggy. A “finger test” is a good way to see if your soil is dry. If you poke your finger in the soil and it’s dry all the way through, it’s time to water. When it comes to how often you should water them, it can help to have a set schedule. About once per week is typically enough water. But again, use the finger test, and if you notice your soil getting dry earlier than that, you may need to water more.
The Long Answer
Watering African Violets is not difficult. It may be helpful to understand a little more about these plants and where they come from. Once you know what they like, it’s easy to meet their watering needs.
African Violets are native to the forests of high-elevation forests of eastern Africa. In the wild, they can be found growing along rocky outcroppings, or peeking out of unlikely soil-filled cracks in rocky ledges.
As a houseplant, they are a familiar sight growing neatly in a small plastic pot. So what watering techniques should you use? And how much and how often should you water your them?
First, let’s start with the soil. If you have an African Violet, it is most likely growing in a soil-filled pot. The soil is probably a lightweight mixture specially formulated for this plant. The soil should be well-drained, lightweight, and high in organic matter.
It is designed to retain moisture without being soggy, yet be loose enough to encourage some air flow around the roots. Unless you have a very large plant in a very small pot, you can probably both see and feel the soil in the pot. It should feel fairly dry, soft, and spongy.
Next, let’s look at the water itself. When it comes to caring for African Violets, not all water is created equal. They are sensitive to water temperature, as well as chemicals. Use water at room temperature or even slightly tepid water.
Do not use cold or hot water, as this can shock the plant. You can allow your water to sit in a container overnight before using. This allows it to reach room temperature and also if you use chemically treated city tap water, it allows some of the chlorine to evaporate.
How Much Water Do They Need?
Okay, now that you have some room-temperature water, don’t just dump it on the plant. You can water them from the top or from the bottom. Either way, make sure your pot has drainage holes. You should also have a saucer under the pot to help you monitor drainage.
African Violets are very sensitive to overwatering. You should always allow the soil to dry between waterings. Too much water creates soggy soil and can cause a wilted or dying plant. A plant sitting in soggy soil will develop root rot, which can quickly lead to crown rot.
If you notice soft mushy stems and leaves on your plant, it probably got overwatered. If caught early, you may be able save a plant that has started to rot by removing the rotting parts and repotting in fresh dry soil.
Water until the soil is thoroughly moist, without being soggy or squishy. You can test for moistness with your finger. Soil should feel moist without feeling really wet. You can also test by picking up the pot and feeling the weight. A dry pot will be very light, while a moist pot will feel like it has substance.
An overwatered pot will be heavy and soggy, and may also be drippy on the bottom. This method is a bit subjective, but with practice, you will get the feel for how heavy your pot should be after a proper watering. Overwatering African Violets is one of the most common mistakes new indoor gardeners make.
If watering from the top, be sure to water the soil rather than dump water all over the stems and leaves. Regular watering by pouring water directly on the plant can easily lead to too much moisture and rot.
As you’re watering from above, keep an eye on the underside of the pot as well. If you see water coming out the bottom of the pot, it’s probably a good time to stop watering. Give the soil a few minutes to absorb some of the extra water, and then discard any water left standing in the saucer.
If watering from the bottom, you will definitely need to set your pot in a shallow drainage saucer. Pour some water into the saucer and allow the pot to sit for 15-20 minutes.
The soil will wick the water up into the pot. After that time, discard any water still pooled in the saucer. Never let your plant just sit in water as this just leads to soggy soil and root rot.
A basic rule of thumb is to allow the soil dry out between waterings, but don’t leave it dry for too long. In the warmer months, you may need to water more often than cooler months, simply because the pot dries out faster.
But regardless of season, you should still water when the soil has dried. You can test dryness by feeling with your finger or by lifting the pot to test how heavy it is. It may take a little practice, but you’ll soon learn to detect when your plant is in need of a watering. Just be sure not to over-water.
What about water on the leaves?
Don’t splash cold water on the leaves. As we learned before, African Violets are sensitive to water temperature and this can cause brown spots to develop. If your plants get dusty or dirty, however, you can give them a shower with warm (not hot) water. After a warm shower, you can simply allow the plant and soil to dry again.
Can I root an African Violet leaf in water?
Yes! It may seen a little ironic after being told not to over-water, but you can propagate an African Violet by rooting a leaf in water. Simply cut off a single healthy leaf with as much stem as you can.
Allow the cut stem to sit in a shallow cup of water (like a shot glass or other small container) so the bottom of the stem is slightly in the water, and the rest of the stem and leaf is dry.
After a few weeks, roots will form and you can then carefully plant the rooting leaf in soil. Water regularly (moist but not wet) and soon a new plant will start to develop at the base of the leaf!
African Violets are an easy-care houseplant. Just remember a few simple watering “Dos” and “Don’ts” to help your plants thrive.
A Few Points To Remember
- Do allow the soil to dry between waterings.
- Don’t over-water, or you’ll risk disease growth.
- Do use room-temperature or tepid water.
- Use just enough water to make the soil moist without getting soggy.
- Don’t allow your plant to sit in soggy soil.
- Do use light, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter.
As long as you stick to these tips above and test your soil regularly, you should be well on your way to keeping your plants properly watered, and healthy.